Op Ed: Antioch School Board Candidate Says Children Need Counselors, Not Cops

By Antonio Hernandez

14

For years, our community has struggled with providing a safe, supportive learning experience for our students. This has resulted in a decline in enrollment in the Antioch Unified School District, as more parents have opted for private education, inter-district transfers, homeschooling and charter schools.

But when parents opt out of our local public schools, they are not protesting the great teachers at AUSD. They are saying no to a system that continues to overstretch staff resources. Within the last year, AUSD has cut counselors, teacher aids, college and career staff, librarians, custodians, bilingual aids, and much more. Most recently, AUSD cut 26 similar positions (totaling $1.8 million) from its budget.

Now, both the City of Antioch and AUSD are facing a tough question: whether or not to fund over $3 million to place six cops on our school campuses known as student resource officers (SRO). But is it really the right response?

It’s understandable that as a community we may feel that adding police to our schools will make our children safe. But cops on school campuses are not an effective solution, which is why schools throughout our country are moving away from this practice in favor of more holistic solutions.

A recent paper by the Brookings Institution found that increasing investments in SROs does not lead to safer schools. Instead, they found that academic achievement is a much stronger predictor of school safety. Another paper published in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice found that students felt less safe in the presence of SROs.

Often by the time an SRO is involved in a student’s life, we have already failed them in a million different ways. More than two-thirds of children report experiencing at least one traumatic event by the time they reach the age of 16. Based on a 2018 survey of our students, a full 70 percent of 11th graders in Antioch identified with the statement, “I felt sad and down.” And according to the most recent Census statistics, 24.9 percent of AUSD students — more than 7,000 kids — are living below the poverty line.

It’s not hard to imagine how these factors can lead to trouble at school. Yet school incidents could be prevented with the right resources. For the same cost as the six SROs, we could hire around 20 counselors to staff nearly all of our schools. But our efforts don’t have to end there. By providing quality after-school programs, access to food and shelter, and a supportive community, we can begin to address the true underlying causes of student underachievement issues rather than just the symptoms.

When we invest in SROs over education, not only are we teaching our kids that we see them as violent and in need of policing, but we are ignoring the root of the problem. On the other hand, by addressing the basic needs of our students such as access to food, shelter, and mental health resources, we can dramatically improve not only the safety of the school, but student achievement as well.

By connecting troubled students with a trusted counselor, we can reduce their feelings of hopelessness. Kids could learn to express their anger in healthy ways as well as develop resilience to help them through traumatic events.

Too often, the lack of student resources and support leads to tragedy. How many more students does the community have to mourn before our city leaders can make bold, innovative decisions to address the equity issues at the heart of the challenge with school safety?

Cops are a band-aid solution to under-resourced schools, and a very poor one at that. We must resist the temptation of using our overstretched police department to solve our communities most complex problems, even if it makes us feel better.

Now more than ever, we need to let our leaders know this is not the way we want to solve this problem. Join in this conversation on my facebook page: facebook.com/antonioforausd

Antonio Hernandez
Antioch Resident & Candidate for Antioch Unified School District

14 COMMENTS

  1. While there’s nothing wrong with counselors, I would argue that the “holistic solution” (counselors, food, shelter, etc.) is also a band-aid attempt to solve a larger societal problem: the lack of proper parenting.

    The thought process seems to be to put more and more resources into having schools assume the responsibilities of parents. Schools cannot be substitute parents. Food, shelter and the teaching of appropriate behavior are PARENTAL responsibilities. The larger societal problem cannot be solved by schools. Perhaps what we need is counselors and SROs for parents who all too often just don’t seem to care.

  2. Thats it! Blame the school rather than holding kids or parents accountable. The parents are failing!! Especially blacks!!
    I want police at schools, in public and on every street corner whenever possible. Especially in Antioch!
    Now we know who not to vote for!!

  3. When I went to school & you got into a fight, for example, you were suspended & had to sit through conflict management. Now, kids have to have an obligatory “relationship” with an officer when they’ve dabbled in teenage angst? It’s almost as if we are perpetuating a problem here… My fellow conservatives & Republicans, we do nothing by simply putting a police officer everywhere our political systems have failed us. Why wasn’t anyone up in arms all these years when we were defunding after school programs? And music programs? And sports programs? If you think we need cops in schools 24/7 because our kids are so violent, maybe you should be questioning what the prerogative was defunding all these outlets for our kids all these years to begin with.

    • After school programs can help, but they cannot replace responsible parenting. Society cannot provide 24/7 daycare.

  4. “ by the time an SRO is involved in a student’s life, we have already failed them in a million different ways“

    Actually, that’s when their parents have failed them. Kids need to learn honesty, respect and following rules at home and apply those things in life.

  5. Kids do need after school activities and plenty of them. As for the parents they also need to be held accountable for their kids actions and if they can’t handle them then it’s up to them to come forward and get their kids help. This narratives that “WE” failed them as a society is ridiculous. What ever happened to taking accountability, and I get it some kids are just bad but I have seen time and time again parents who are indifferent in their kids choices and actions. Kids should be taught honesty, integrity and critical thinking skills early in their development and school should be a place where they can apply all those things in the real world. Cops are unfortunately part of our everyday lives especially considering today’s political climate, we all seek safety and solidarity which unfortunately can not be obtained without peace officers anymore. But I believe it all begins at home, they need to be taught to be their own person and if for reason the parents/legal guardians can not provide that type of nurturing environment, then it is time to express those emotions/feelings and get help. But on the same token this will only work if we do our part and provide enough resources and guidance to everyone and make it widespread and easily accessible, meaning not just the ones that can afford it; but to every single member of our community.

  6. A lot of the kids in the Antioch school system as well as the Pittsburg one, are reporting to their parole officers

  7. As an LEO, I agree with Pastor Maynard. Simply putting cops in a school does NOTHING. I know, because I’ve worked it. I will also say that it takes a certain goofy character to be an SRO. Cops who act like robots and only care about stats have no place in our schools. I hope APD selects the right folks with the new grant it got from the FED.

    • LEO
      You are somewhat right but wrong on the general issue of SROs. I take do offense and every police officer should, as to your statement about it taking a “goofy character” to be an SRO. In makes me question your knowledge of what an LEO should be and your original or acutual purpose of becoming an LEO. LEOs are not robots and we should should not care about stats.
      He should have been hired with the desire and purpose of helping people. I will say that police officers are human and there are people with “goofy character” in every profession.

      I will speak from personal experience of being a former SRO within the Antioch Unified School District. Not only an SRO, but former 40 year resident of Antioch. I grew up in Antioch and attended Antioch Schools. Its not the Antioch Police Department that failed Antioch, as that falls on the School District. This is in so many different ways besides campus security.

      The original thought and purpose of an SRO was mingling with and mentoring the students. SROs originally taught classes and should be out with the kids during lunch, PE, and changing classes. When the school district grew, it could not keep up with the demand for having SROs in the schools. My experience was 3 SROs, with two full time (4 days a week) covering high school’s and 1 covering all middle schools (4 days a week). This left days with no coverage at the schools.

      When the schools grew too big, the rate of students getting into trouble grew. This caused a problem and parents began speaking out about disproportionate discipline among minorities. I don’t want to argue this as I’m just trying to explain how the school district handled it. I saw the schools take a no tolerance stance to avoid this issue. The schools directed the SROs to cite kids for fights and school room disturbances. State law does require students to be arrested for major crimes (weapons, felony assaults, robbery, sex crimes, etc…) There were no options for the SROs. Luckly Antioch PD referred these simple minor cases to a pre-probation program (Reach Project). This help mitigate the students exposure to the criminal justice system for first time offenders. The program helped counsel the students.

      The SRO program can be a great asset and community bond if done correctly. It gives our kids and next generation adult a better understanding that police officers are there to mentor, help, protect, and save lives. It also gives them a police officer and friend they could contact if they had a question or other need.

      I just wanted to give the general citizen a firsthand account and general brief on what the SRO position should be like.

  8. WHY ARE YOU DELETING POSTS? IS E.C.T? ALSO A TYRANNICAL MEDIA MOUTH PIECE JUST LIKE THE REST OF THE MAIN STREET MEDIA?

  9. AND THERE YOU HAVE IT …LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

    IN FULL COLOR AND IN H.D.

    WELCOME TO MARXIST AMERICA!

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